Monday, January 31, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
A couple of observations. First, I didn't immediately bring up the existence of Adam and Eve (though I do believe in them). In any case, whether or not Adam and Eve existed was not the main issue. In actuality, the article was a piece on the Logia website that I had written concerning the relationship between Scripture and Tradition in Lutheran thought. I was arguing that Hinlicky deviated from the Lutheran "tradition 1" model (to use Oberman's terminology) because he needed Churchly tradition to make up for the fact that he doesn't believe that the Word of God's efficacy and inerrancy. My argument was about as non-Fundamentalist as one could make. In a word, my point was that the Scriptures are a "charter of Christian freedom" (Forde) or "the wedding certificate of the Bride of Christ" (Gerhard, quoting Augustine). If God's promises are true and I have Christian freedom through the blood of the Lamb, then I must believe in the historical facts that make those promises possible. If I say that they are as true and knowable as any other mere historical fact and aren't inerrantly preserved in the Scriptures, then I am saying they are merely "probable." All secular history is merely probable. Hence, if God's promises stand on the foundation of the merely probable, then they too are only probable, and so is my Christian freedom.
Again, Hinlicky doesn't want to engage in this sort of debate because he can't overcome this objection. In fact, I suspect he feels he doesn't have to do so. In a word, no one in his circles would make this objection, so who needs to respond to it? People who claim the Bible is inerrant are Fundamentalists and therefore not worth listening to. So, he simply screams "Fundamentalist" and then claims that he's making a convincing argument.
Another comment that Hinlicky made that I found irksome was his statement that he "read the Bible all the way through" several times in college and then realize how many errors and contradictions there are in it and how his teachers and pastors were just engaging in childish harmnonizations of the text. Then he went to Seminex and dreamed of reconciling Marx with Luther through Tillich. Yeah!
But if he thinks that inerrancy is falsified by our perceiving errors in Scripture, then he is gravely mistaken about the concept. He somehow thinks that inerrancy means that we can just go through the text and then when we find no errors, then it is declared inerrant. Hence, when every discrepancy isn't capable of being worked out by human reason, then you've got to say that the text is errant. This is why he treats his opponents as if they are ignorant. Apparently they haven't gone through the text as thoroughly and discovered how many errors there are!
But this isn't really what the Lutheran scholastics or any of the newer orthodox Lutheran theologians mean by inerrancy (actually as Robert Preus shows in one of his pieces, they were very aware of perceived discrepancies in the text and developed a number of intellectual rigorous ways of dealing with them). Rather, inerrancy is a methodological principle, that because God is trustworthy, his Word is also. This doesn't mean that I can work out every apparent discrepancy out myself. In fact, even if I could, it would not be the basis of me declaring the Word of God inerrant. I am a fallible human being and therefore my own preception of whether or not a thing is inerrant is not a proper basis to declare it as such. Rather I trust God that it is trustworthy and inerrant because God through the Holy Spirit convicts me that it is. Therefore I trust it is, even if I perceive errors.
This is not just fideism, but rather the text understood as trust worthy in light of God's own trust worthiness. I can't know everything, so anything I perceive as a mistake is error in me and not the text. There are many examples in Scripture of things that many generations of earlier scholars thought was an error (Abraham having Camels, etc.) and later evidence vindicated the truth and trustworthiness of the text (Camels were domesticated by that time, just not in super wide use).
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
Lastly, contrary to what is commonly claimed, the historical-critical method cannot discredit the Gospels' portrayal of Christ's kenotic self-consciousness. Historical critics of the New Testament frequently claim the New Testament's portrayals of self-conscious divinity and Messianic identity were created by the later Church after the fact. Such claims are largely rooted in the presupposition that supernatural revelation is impossible within the closed system of cosmic history. Not only is this mere conjecture and impossible to prove, but it should be noted that recent studies of the Gospel material have made convincing arguments that the theory of later communal inventions of these materials is false and that in fact the Gospels are products of eye-witness testimony.
Assuming such conjectures are in some sense scientific, modern theologians have unfortunately put too much stock in them and developed alternative explanations regarding the historicity of the Gospels portrayal of Jesus' kenotic life-form. In particular, it is often asserted, that after Jesus rose from the dead the later Church read the post-resurrection glory into his earlier existence. Two points should be made in response to this. First, as Martin Hengel notes, the resurrection and exaltation cannot have been the basis of the claims that Jesus was the divine Messiah, since the Jews of the Second Temple believed in many exalted Patriarchs (i.e. Enoch, among others) and martyrs whom they never attributed any such role to. This is especially true of the New Testament's claims of Christ's divinity. A resurrected man is still a man nonetheless. To many Jews a single resurrected man might indicate the beginning of the eschaton (as it doubtless did for Jewish-Christian heretics like the Ebionites), but it would not indicate divinity (again, also a conclusion that the Ebionites refused to reach). Indeed all humans would eventually be resurrected and this did not indication that all human beings were divine. Hence, the resurrection could not have created the exalted claims regarding Jesus identity we find in the New Testament, but rather vindicated ones that already existed (Rom 1:3-4).
All this suggests that the Disciples must have already believed in Jesus as the divine Messiah in some sense (all be it, an incomplete one) prior to the resurrection, as in fact the Gospels indicate. Furthermore, if they had this understanding, it cannot be doubted that the source was Jesus himself (as again the Gospels claim), since he very well could have discouraged overly exalted estimations of his person and mission in the space of three years of ministry. It might be objected that the Gospels also indicate that the Disciples frequently misunderstood Jesus' identity and mission. Nevertheless, as Peter's confession in the Synoptic Gospels demonstrates, it was not Jesus' identity that they misunderstood, but rather its implications for his mission. The paradox of one who is God and Messiah but who will also suffer and die is something that was unacceptable to them and therefore they willfully misunderstood Jesus in many instances. Peter's response of rebuke to the Jesus' Passion predictions immediately following his confession of Jesus' identity clearly reveals this (Mt 16:21-8). In short, Jesus' exalted identity did not cause offense, since the Disciples eagerly embraced it, thereby believing that they could gain a share in his power and glory (Mk 10:36-40, Lk 9:46-7). For this reason, it would appear that it was more Jesus' mission than his identity that caused misunderstanding and offense.
Secondly, from the perspective of the Christian faith, it is especially illegitimate to rule out Jesus' messianic self-consciousness a prior, since as God become man Jesus could have any amount of messianic consciousness that he wished. In fact, as we observed earlier, such knowledge was essential to his mission. It is for this reason that we must look to the Gospels themselves to report the shape of Jesus' kenotic self-understanding, rather than relying on secular historical conjecture. Christian dogmatics is especially reckless and arbitrary when it attempts to split the difference between such pseudo-historical treatments of the Gospel material and the presupposition of orthodoxy, as can be observed in the earlier case of Thomasius. It in fact accomplishes little more than placing the square peg of a supernaturalistic worldview in the round hole of secularist materialism.
Monday, January 17, 2011
More from the article.
In recent decades, liturgical worship has largely been displaced in many section of the American Church by the advent of the church-growth movement. This is true for both mainline churches and as well as more evangelically oriented denominations. The influence of these worship practices can also be felt in "mixed" or "blended" services, where so-called "contemporary worship" is combined with otherwise liturgical forms. Contrary to the claims of many, the forms and structures of worship that the church-growth movement offers do suggest a particular theological orientation. As we shall argue below, this orientation and the assumptions that the church-growth movement brings to bear on Christian worship, stand at odds with the theological assumptions of Nicene orthodoxy.
Judged in light of actual practice, for the church-growth movement and its preferred style of worship the operative theological assumption appears to be that the human person's relationship with God is rooted primarily in interior experiences and feelings. This fact is not surprising in light of the sitz im leben of this theology of worship within the tradition of American individualism. This experience appears to be primarily brought about by singing songs with a similar structure and cadence to contemporary soft-rock music. These songs contain biblical-sounding phrases and are often projected onto large overhead screens. The songs use these biblical-sounding phrases in a repetitive manner. The goal of their repetitive nature is to actualize a particular experience of God. Since the words themselves are less than meaningful, the act of worship is intrinsically unstructured by the act of cognitive comprehension. This makes the act of worship formless, non-determinate, and sub-cognitive even when a certain formality is adopted by worship planners. Hence, through a sub-cognitive experience of particular emotions, the Spirit is received and the divine-human relationship is facilitated.
From the perspective of traditional Christian orthodoxy, this is a highly problematic way of understand the divine-human relationship as it is actualized in the Divine Service. By the abandonment of worship centered on the embodied mediation of Word and sacrament with its attendant historic structures of worship, the God of creation, law, and Incarnation is also abandoned. Even when sacramental mediation is in some sense retained, it is subordinated to the primary mediation of the experience of the secret Gnostic self. By the embracing this form of worship, American Christians have steered their worship away from historic creedal Christianity into the territory of Montanus, Marcion, and Valentinus. Being severed from the embodied means of grace and the situatedness of the created order, the disembodied Gnostic self (implied by contemporary worship) is able to mold itself by its own actions. Unlike liturgical worship, which centers on the believer reception of him or herself from God's action within embodied forms (i.e, Word and sacrament), the participant in contemporary worship relies primarily on the sub-cognitive experience and activity of "praise" to facilitate the divine-human relationship. This radically changes the primary focus of the Divine Service from grace induced receptivity to autonomous activity. If the individual is able to establish his or her own relationship with God and mold its own reality through autonomous action, then the self is necessarily conceived as something self-generating. This represents a form of autopoiesis, thereby making the individual self something divine. The reality of the self is no longer the subject of divinely sanctioned determinate freedom lived within boundaries of protology and eschatology, but rather the subject of a non-determinate, divine, self-generating freedom. Here the Gnostic myth of the divinity of the inner person is given full reign.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
From its origins, the practice of the historic Christian faith has consistently been tied up with liturgical worship. Just as the law of prayer is the law of faith (lex orandi, lex credendi), so too the faith that is believed (fides quae creditor) is ultimately expresses itself by the choice of certain worship forms over others. Prior to the Enlightenment, communions that accepted the presuppositions of Nicene orthodoxy (Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed) consistently worshiped according to common liturgical forms and structures. Conversely, those that did not accept the assumptions present in Nicene orthodoxy (the Quakers,  for example) did not. Hence the choice of certain common embodied forms of worship was and remains not merely a holdover from the ancient Church and its roots in Judaism (which, as it should be strongly noted, maintained a liturgical worship in both Temple and Synagogue worship). Rather, liturgical worship is inherently expressive of certain theological presuppositions embedded in the basic evangelical-catholic ontology and metanarrative as it is set down in the creeds. Even with the variations between the different communal liturgies, there remains a structure core of similarity between them. In examining the common structures of liturgical worship, it becomes apparent that the said structures are representative of creedal orthodoxy by the assumptions it bring to bear on the basis of Christian worship.
First, because God is the almighty creator of original heaven and earth he is also the agent of new creation. Through his gracious action, God makes “all things new” (Rev 21:5). He does not do this though by abandoning his previous creative act, but rather by incorporating (we might say, using an Christological analogy, "enhypostatizing") it in the new action. Hence, God engages in his act of new creation through the embodied mediums of the old creation, i.e. the signum of the Word and the sacraments, thereby bringing about new and heavenly life. By structuring Christian worship around the twofold liturgy of the Word and that of the sacrament, liturgical worship is formed by and is centered on the creator God's use of embodied forms as vehicles of the divine-human relationship.
Viewed from this perspective, liturgical worship encompasses and unites the teaching of the first and third articles of the creed. By enjoying salvation and fellowship with God through certain structured verba and embodied sacramental forms, we both recognize our rootedness in the old creation (first article) in its actualized determinateness, as well as gain a foretaste of the eschatological heavenly feast mediated through them (third article).
As the "alpha and omega" (Rev 22:13) God the creator encompasses both the protological and the eschatological in his proclamatory and sacramental actions. Through the proclamatory and sacramental actions of the creator God establishes his verdict as to what he intends for human life in the beginning and also his final judgment regarding the outcome of human life in the end (i.e. the judgment of sin and the justification of the sinner). As a result of this gift and verdict, we are determined in true freedom, which exercises itself in divine glorification in unity with the heavenly hosts (Isa 6:2-3, Rom 12:1, Heb 13:15, Rev 4-6, 14:1-5, 19). Human freedom is not self-generated or uncaused, but rather is in accordance with the classical definition of freedom put forth by Augustine (and Luther) a determinate freedom. It is human possibility lived within the determining boundaries of God's protological and eschatological act of creation ex nihillo through his Word.
Just as liturgical worship expresses the truths of the first and third articles, it unites them in the second article. Jesus is always the subject of the heavenly and earthly liturgy (Rev 5-6). Similarly, as embodied worship, liturgical worship that works within certain forms (i.e. the historic liturgy) and also certain created elements (verba, bread, water, wine, etc.). For this reason, it is intrinsically incarnational. As incarnational, liturgical worship insists that God the redeemer is embodied and therefore wills not to save apart from created means.
The incarnational structure of worship expresses the same reality of the unity between the protological and eschatological that we observed in above (Rom 5, 1 Cor 15). Old creation is incorporated into the act of new creation. The flesh of the old Adam is incorporated into the person of the new Adam (enhypostasis) in the womb of Mary. The second Adam actualizes and recapitulates the intended righteousness of the first Adam while also suffering the negative eschatological verdict of God passed on human sin through the cross (2 Cor 5:21). Having overcome the dark forces of the old creation, he rises to give us access to his eschatological righteousness (Rom 4:25). Having won freedom from slavery and condemnation, God in Christ, present through Word and sacrament in the monstrance of the liturgical forms incorporates the worshiping community into true, determinate freedom within the boundaries of protological and eschatological promise of grace.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Monday, January 10, 2011
Friday, January 7, 2011
The Magdeburg press blog is up and functioning.
Rev. Johnston has been hard at work and the Clavis I am told is on the way. It looks like we're going to get a publication of it at the end of this month or next month. So watch carefully. I highly encourage you to buy a copy!
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
But I was in the Calvin College bookstore on Monday and discovered that the reader's edition of The Book of Concord is shelved in the "Reformed Theology" section.
When did Lutherans become Reformed?
What's odd about it is that the Reformed unionistic tendency is radically rejected at Calvin, since only people from the "Christian Reformed" can be profs. I mean only. Not even Accounting professors can be non-CRC people. The Concordia system might look into this- after a while they might find that they actually resemble Lutheran colleges!
Nevertheless, does that mean I can teach at Calvin now? Somehow I'm guessing the answer is still no.